Cherokee Nation Administration Liaison Pat Gwin uses a Global Positioning System device to map river cane near Greasy, Okla., in southern Adair County. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

River cane in CN being mapped, studied

University of Arkansas graduate student and Cherokee Nation citizen Roger Cain studies a dead stalk of river cane that likely died during a time of sub-freezing weather or a drought the area recently experienced. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Healthy stalks of river cane stand near Sallisaw Creek in southern Adair County. A project to map and study river cane in the Cherokee Nation is under way. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Research shows that Cherokee people living in the southeast frequently used river cane for items such as sleeping mats, food, flutes, blowguns, baskets and cover for homes. The basket on the left, made by Cherokee artist Shawna Cain, is made from river cane. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
University of Arkansas graduate student and Cherokee Nation citizen Roger Cain studies a dead stalk of river cane that likely died during a time of sub-freezing weather or a drought the area recently experienced. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
10/24/2013 08:31 AM
GREASY, Okla. – A project to map and study river cane in the Cherokee Nation is under way as two researchers complete work in Adair County.

In this southern Adair County community, near the Sallisaw Creek, University of Arkansas graduate student and CN citizen Roger Cain, as well as CN Administration Liaison Pat Gwin, have been mapping river cane in a densely wooded area.

“It’s a project we started this past year to start identifying and mapping river cane,” Cain, who is finishing a master’s degree in ethno-botany with an emphasis on river cane, said.

He said after the river cane fields are identified and mapped, a usage policy would be developed to preserve the plant and its ecosystems for future generations.

Research has found river cane riparian zones significantly reduce nutrient loads into area streams, creeks and rivers, Cain said. This research has implications for the controversial issue of local poultry farmers allegedly polluting the Illinois River with runoff containing poultry waste.

Gwin said once the river cane data is compiled, the CN would likely have the largest database in Oklahoma and possibly the entire United States.

“It’s a very important plant. I think it has a lot to offer for both the cultural preservation of the Cherokee, and I think it also has a lot to offer scientifically in the future. This is groundbreaking research,” Gwin said. “A misconception with cane is its name. It’s called river cane. I don’t think that’s a very good name. I think it would be far better referred to as flood plain cane or bamboo.”

He said Cain’s research includes gathering soil profiles to show where cane is growing and where the CN may be able to artificially introduce and successfully grow it. Gwin said 99 percent of the canebrakes the two men are finding are not flourishing due to past land management practices and other reasons.

“Estimates are, by specialists in the field of ethno-botany and ethno-biology, is that 2 percent of the population of river cane is left in the whole country,” Cain said.

That 98 percent decline has occurred since Europeans made contact with Native people in North America about 500 years ago, he said. Large areas of canebrakes were once abundant along river bottoms in the southeastern United States. Canebrakes are now considered critically endangered ecosystems because of agriculture, grazing, fire suppression and urbanization.

Gwin said canebrakes would likely lesson the affects of flooding in low-lying areas if they still existed next to streams and rivers in urban areas.

Research shows that Cherokee people living in the southeast frequently used river cane for sleeping mats, food, flutes, blowguns, baskets and cover for homes.

“It was our plastic. When archeologists go into prehistoric sites, be it Cherokee or any Southeastern woodland (tribe), the plants they find more predominately than anything else is river cane and hickory,” Cain said.

Severe winter weather and drought conditions from recent years have decimated area cane fields. Dead stalks littered the cane fields visited by Cain and Gwin as they mapped the fields near Sallisaw Creek.

After those major kills of the plant, Cain said he became concerned there was not much cane left and what was left needed protection, so he successfully lobbied the CN Environmental Protection Commission to place the plant on the tribe’s Culturally Protected Species List.

Cain said he and Gwin have covered 13,000 acres so far and have found only 50 total acres of cane growing on CN land in Adair County.

Gwin uses a Global Positioning System device and Geographic Information Systems to map the canebrakes. So far, only tribal lands in Adair County have been mapped for river cane, but Gwin said research and mapping would done on tribal lands in other counties soon.

“It’s been very educational for me. I’ve learned more about cane in the last couple of months than I have in my entire life,” Gwin said. “The goal is we will survey every inch of tribal trust property and determine the presence of cane and the cane brakes. For the most part we have found it in smaller brakes.”

He added that the stalks studied so far range from 2 feet tall to 20 feet tall located in small canebrakes.

“We certainly don’t have the very large breaks that most people think of when they look at the large flood plains of the Baron Fork (Creek) and the Illinois River. We don’t have any like that that we’ve seen yet,” Gwin said.

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.

Culture

BY STAFF REPORTS
02/27/2015 12:00 PM
LONDON – Following the success of its first-ever photography competition, Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, has announced its second worldwide photography contest, which aims to celebrate photography as a powerful medium for raising awareness of tribal peoples, their unique ways of life and the threats to their existence. Both amateur and professional photographers are encouraged to enter. Photographs can be submitted in the guardians category, which are images showing tribal peoples as guardians of the natural world; the community category, which are portraits of relationships between individuals, families or tribes; and the survival category, which are images showing tribal peoples’ diverse ways of life. The judging panel consists of Survival’s Director Stephen Corry, Survival Italy Coordinator Francesca Casella, The Little Black Gallery Co-Founder Ghislain Pascal and Max Houghton, senior lecturer in photography at the London College of Communication. The 12 winning entries will be published in Survival’s 2016 calendar with the overall winner’s image featured on the cover. The closing date for entries is April 30. For more information, visit: <a href="http://www.survivalinternational.org/photography" target="_blank">www.survivalinternational.org/photography</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/22/2015 04:00 PM
DAHLONEGA, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will begin at 10:30 a.m. on March 14 at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega. The speaker will be GCTOTA board member Walter J. Knapp, instructor of Native American Culture and History at UNG. The topic will be “Successes and Challenges for Native Americans Today and in the Future”. Visit <a href="http://ung.edu/visitors/campuses/dahlonega/driving-directions.php" target="_blank">http://ung.edu/visitors/campuses/dahlonega/driving-directions.php</a> for directions to the university. The meeting will be held in the Adult Education building across from the main entrance to the campus between a pizza place and a Dairy Queen. The address is 82 College Circle Drive. The Trail of Tears Association was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. The TOTA is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeast. The association consists of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee, Creek and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. The GCTOTA meetings are free and open to the public. People need not have Native American ancestry to attend the meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this fascinating and tragic period in this country’s history. For more information about the TOTA, visit the National TOTA website at <a href="http://www.nationaltota.org" target="_blank">www.nationaltota.org</a> and the Georgia Chapter website at <a href="http://www.gatrailoftears.org" target="_blank">www.gatrailoftears.org</a>. For questions about the March meeting, email Tony Harris at <a href="mailto: harris7627@bellsouth.net">harris7627@bellsouth.net</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/18/2015 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – Cherokee National Treasure Martha Berry will teach a beginners-level beadwork class from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 11 at the Oklahoma History Center at 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive. Participants will learn how to make a lady’s purse. All supplies and lunch is included in the cost. For enrollment or cost information, call OHC Director of Education Jason Harris at 405-522-0785 or email him <a href="mailto: jharris@okhistory.org">jharris@okhistory.org</a>. Beadwork artist Martha Berry was born and raised in Tulsa. Her grandmother and mother taught her how to sew and embroider at age 5, and she later became a professional seamstress. As a Cherokee artist Berry creates elaborately beaded bandolier bags, moccasins, belts, knee bands, purses and sashes inspired by the styles of Southeastern tribes including the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Yuchi and Alabama. Her work is displayed in museums throughout the country. Berry, 66, of Tyler, Texas, taught herself the craft of beading and continues to research the beadwork of Southeastern tribes. She is credited with helping bring back the art form to the Cherokee people and makes time to teach others her craft.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
02/17/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During a Feb. 7 benefit stomp dance, more than 400 people gathered at the Tahlequah Community Building to raise money for a local Cherokee family that suffered a horrific car accident in January. The stomp dance was originally planned to raise money for the Echota Ground, a Cherokee stomp ground in Park Hill. Echota Ground Chief David Comingdeer said the event raised more than $3,500 with half going to the Flynns to help with their expenses. Family members suffered multiple injuries and totaled their vehicle in the accident. “This evening here in Tahlequah we’ve called all our ceremonial grounds together from the Cherokee Nation, Muskogee Creek, Eucha, Shawnee, Seminole, Seneca Cayuga, even Peoria and Ottawa,” Comingdeer said. “We’ve all come together to help a family, a Cherokee family, a ceremonial family who got in a really bad wreck. We’ve decided to do what we can to help them.” The Flynns, driving a 2004 Chevy Trailblazer, were hit in a head-on collision on State Highway 51 by Randall Welch, of Welling, who was driving a 2002 Nissan Frontier. Welch was taken by Tulsa Life Flight and admitted for injuries while the driver of the Trailblazer, Jack “Red” Flynn, was taken to Arkansas with external trunk, leg and head injuries. Jack’s passengers were Kathy Gann, Jimmy Ross and Nellie Flynn, all family members of Jack. Ross suffered injuries to the head trunk and leg, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Nellie, Jack’s mother, was taken to a Tulsa hospital with similar injuries. Nellie was unable to make it to the event because of continual problems with the injuries she suffered. Jack, Ross and Gann were present during the dance along with several other family members. Some family members said the accident had put the family in a financial bind with hospital visits and losing the vehicle. “Their going back and forth to the hospital. Both him (Jack) and Nellie are going,” Linda Christie, a Flynn family relative, said. She said the funds would help with gas, food, travel and anything else unforeseen. Jack said without the benefit assistance the family would be forced to suffer more with the financial hardship in which the accident put them. The Flynns and Ross will have a long road ahead of them for full recovery, family members said, but they were appreciative of the donations and support from those who attended. Stomp dance attendee Celia Xavier said witnessing the fundraiser “felt like a throwback to the way our earlier societies were.” “Moving in the same direction, giving a helping hand when one needed it. What affects one, affects all. We are supposed to help each other,” Xavier said. “The antithesis of today’s ‘me society.’ It was interesting to see kindness through the actions of the chief of the Echota Grounds. He is giving half the donations to the Flynn family, who was in dire need of help. It was a moving and spiritual experience.” The family is a member of Stokes Ceremonial Grounds, but Comingdeer said it doesn’t matter what ground one is from. “They may not be from our ground, but they’re from another ground and we have a lot of respect for each other. We always support each other, try to love and understand each other,” he said. “You can take everything away from us, even our land. You can take all of our corporation away, as long as we still have our beliefs and our tradition we can build a fire, have our dances and take our medicine, speak our language, then we’re still a tribe. Tonight is the foundation of our culture. It’s the foundation of our tribe, and this is how we help each other. For those interested in donating to the Echota Ground or the Flynns can do so by mailing a check to Route 4 Box 1570, Stilwell, OK 74960. Make checks out to Echota Ground and indicate in the memo where donation is to go.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/16/2015 12:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – The 25th anniversary of Indian Health Care Resource Center’s annual dinner and auction “The Dance of the Two Moons” will be Feb. 21 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Catoosa. The “Dance of the Two Moons” dinner and auction was established 25 years ago as an annual fundraiser to help support the many great programs and services provided to the Native American community by the IHCRC. Proceeds from the event are once again supporting the vital programs and services currently paid from IHCRC’s general fund, including: maternal/child health, adult/child fitness and wellness programs, annual powwow, Spring Break Youth Camp and Youth Summer Camps. The honorary chairs of the 2015 “The Dance of the Two Moons” are Dr. Joseph and Mary Cunningham. Dr. Cunningham, medical director of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma and Mrs. Cunningham are personally dedicated to helping IHCRC improve the lives of our patients, states an IHCRC press release. Tickets to the event are $150 per person or $250 per couple. Sponsorship levels are available ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. For more information, to preview auction items, or to purchase a sponsorship or tickets, visit <a href="http://www.ihcrc2moons.org" target="_blank">www.ihcrc2moons.org</a>. The evening will include hors d'oeuvres, cocktails served during the silent auction, and a meal served in the grand ballroom as traditional dancers entertain attendees. IHCRC officials said it appreciates having Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma as the 2015 Silver Anniversary Sponsor. Additional sponsors include Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Tiger Natural Gas, Meeks Group, Delores Titchywy Sumner, Conner & Winters, and many other generous business and personal contributors. The Indian Health Care Resource Center of Tulsa is a 501(c)(3) organization funded through a contract with Indian Health Services, state and federal grants, private foundations and donors, and its annual fundraiser “The Dance of the Two Moons.” Utilizing a patient-centered, multidisciplinary, medical home approach, IHCRC offers a full range of health and wellness services tailored to the Indian community. Services include: Medical, Optometry, Dental, Pharmacy, Transportation, Behavioral Health, Health Education and Wellness, Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention, and Youth Programs focused on traditions, health, and leadership skills. With more than 18,000 active patients representing in excess of 150 Tribes, IHCRC provides more than 126,000 patient visits each year to improve the general health status and reduce the incidence and severity of chronic disease of the urban Indian community. Contact Deb Starnes at 918-382-1203 or <a href="mailto: dstarnes@ihcrc.org">dstarnes@ihcrc.org</a> for more information about the IHCRC or “The Dance of the Two Moons” fundraiser.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
02/15/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee artist Lisa Rutherford recently shared her experiences from researching textiles in December at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. In mid-January she gave a presentation in Tahlequah using a slide show about some of the artifacts she studied at the museum. For nearly two weeks, Rutherford studied pre-19th century textiles, fibers and cordage of the Mississippian culture in the collections of the NMAI as part of the museum’s “Artist Leadership Program for Individual Artists.” She hoped to gain more knowledge about the techniques used by Southeastern peoples to weave materials. Following her research visit, Rutherford was asked to facilitate a community project to share knowledge learned from the experience and research. In January, she conducted two weaving classes and discussions for Cherokee Heritage Center employees at the CHC in Park Hill where she used twine made from jute plants to weave a skirt and other items. She said at the NMAI she saw a twine skirt that was found in a cave in Tennessee that she has replicated. “I have replicated the skirt, but I think I can do a closer approximation of it now that I’ve seen it in person and studied the fibers up close,” she said. She said she also had the opportunity to study artifacts from the Spiro Mounds site in eastern Oklahoma in Leflore County. The site is not a Cherokee site, but belongs to the ancestors of the Quapaw, Caddo and Osage tribes. At approximately the same time period, Cherokee people used the same twining techniques used by craftspeople at Spiro, Rutherford said. “There Cherokee objects found at Spiro, so there was trade, there was interaction, so we know they were probably using some the same techniques,” she said. This past summer, Rutherford worked in the Diligwa Village, a Cherokee village set in 1710, at the CHC where she learned from the other villagers on staff and also taught others how to make yellow dye from bois d’arc shavings. Rutherford and other artists used the yellow dye along with brown dye made from walnuts to dye the jute material. The versatile Bois d’arc tree is used by Cherokee bow makers to make bows. “So now the bow makers are saving their shavings for dye, and we’re all working together. I think that’s the way it would have been in 1710. We all had to work together and help each other out,” she said. Rutherford is encouraging Native artists to apply for the NMAI’s “Artist Leadership Program for Individual Artists.” She said it was a “valuable experience” for her and it was so much more than she expected. “It was a remarkable experience for her as an artist to come into the collection of the Smithsonian and really bring to live the stories and the life experiences of the cultural material of the Cherokee Nation,” Museum Programs Outreach Coordinator for the NMAI Keevin Lewis said. Lewis came to Tahlequah in January to observe Rutherford share the knowledge she gathered from Smithsonian institutions in Washington, to visit with Cherokee artists and visit the CHC. Along with making twine skirts and bags, Rutherford is a skilled and an award-winning potter. She is also skilled at making Cherokee baskets, historic Cherokee-style clothing, beadwork, creating oil paintings, beadwork pieces and feather capes.